6 Characteristics of Leaders Who Finish Well

“Time flies!”

With only two weeks left of 2016, these two words seem to be the most popular expressions around this season.

Now, let’s do a post-mortem for this year. How was 2016 for you? To be more precise, how did you fare in relation to your New Years Goals you set earlier in the year?

If you’re like me, you may be an enthusiastic self-start but a lousy finisher. You may have succumbed to the forces of status quo. You have fallen victim to your habits. This is no surprise. In fact, neuroscience shows that 88% of New Year’s Resolutions fail. If you’re in the 12%, congratulations! (Comment below so I can learn your secret) However, if you’re like me, we have some work to do.

Bobby Clinton who has studied biblical leaders makes a poignant observation that few leaders finish well. There are around 800 or so leaders mentioned in the Bible. There are about 100 who have data that helps you interpret their leadership. About 50 of these have enough data for evaluation of their finish. About 1 in 3 finished well. Anecdotal evidence from today indicates that this ratio is probably generous. Probably less than 1 in 3 are finishing well today.

Bobby Clinton, professor of leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary, shares six characteristics of individuals who finished well.

1. They maintain a personal vibrant relationship with God right up to the end.

Daniel is the classic O.T. leader who exemplifies this. In the N.T., Peter, Paul and John all demonstrate this. See their last writings—the tone, the touch with God, the revelation from God, their trust in enabling grace for their lives.

 2. They maintain a learning posture and can learn from various kinds of sources— life especially.

Daniel is the classic O.T. leader who exemplifies this. See Daniel chapter nine for a late in life illustration of one who continues to study and learn from the Scriptures. Paul and Peter are the classic N.T. leaders with a learning posture (see 2Pe 3:18 and 2Ti 4:13).

3. They manifest Christ-likeness in character as evidenced by the fruit of the Spirit in their lives.

Daniel is the classic O.T. leader who exemplifies godliness (See the summary references to him in Eze 14:14,20). In the N.T. note the evidence of character transformation in Paul’s life (2Ti 2:24 and an illustration of it—the book of Phm). These were men who over a lifetime moved from strong

4. Truth is lived out in their lives so that convictions and promises of God are seen to be real.

Joshua’s statement about God’s promises never having failed him in his closing speech demonstrate this characteristic of someone believing God and staking his life on God’s truth (Jos 23:14). See the many aside truth statements that Paul weaves into his two letters to Timothy. See his famous stirring convictions echoed in Ac 27:22-25.

5. They leave behind one or more ultimate contributions.

In a study on legacies left behind by effective leaders who finished well I have identified the following categories: saint, practitioners, mentors, public rhetoricians, pioneers, crusaders, artists, founder, stabilizer, researchers, writers, promoters.

Examples: Daniel’s ultimate contributions include: saint, (mentor), writer, stabilizer. Paul’s ultimate contributions include: saint, mentor, pioneer, crusader, writer, promoter.

Of course, in addition to these standard categories there are also unique legacies that leaders also leave behind. These have to be described individually for each leader.

6. They walk with a growing awareness of a sense of destiny and see some or all of it fulfilled.

A sense of destiny is an inner conviction arising from an experience or a series of experiences in which there is a growing sense of awareness that God has His hand on a leader in a special way for special purposes. Over a lifetime a leader is prepared by God for a destiny, receives guidance toward that destiny, and increasingly completes that destiny. No Biblical leader who accomplished much for God failed to have a sense of destiny, one that usually grew over his/her lifetime.

Examples: Joseph’s dreams and his saving of the embryonic nation; Moses’ saving of the nation; Paul’s vision to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Question: What needs to change in your life to finish well?